When I first learned about the attempt to sell Gracedale to a for-profit corporation, I was angry. Not just at the lies, like the threat of a massive County tax increase, and not just at the vicious attempt to destroy every particle of security for the working men and women who care so well for Gracedale’s patients. I was also angry that the patients themselves had so little voice in the very community where they had lived and worked throughout their lives.
I started to make online comments about the issues (it was a period when I had a little bit more time to do so) and I sent a letter to The Express-Times into which I put some of my strong feelings. As a result I received a call from the COAF inviting me to one of their meetings.
That visit evolved into some of the warmest friendships a man can have. I offered some help in the form of writing—the COAF wasn’t even aware of how to compose and distribute press releases, so I started by working up a few drafts and longer pieces for them. I objected to editors at both local newspapers about the less-than-adequate coverage their reporters were giving to the COAF (and that was apart from at least one egregiously fawning article in which the would-be sellers were congratulated on their nearly-accomplished success!).
My role was minimal. The COAF and Gracedale’s workers are the ones who collected petition signatures and persevered in their tough fight. Gracedale found her best defenders from the ranks of those who know her best.
After the success of the Referendum I naturally returned to wondering about the folks at the epicenter—those who rely on Gracedale simply because they can’t care themselves. Thanks to the COAF and Gracedale’s staff, I have been visiting Gracedale herself.
I will make up for lost time, for past ignorance, by submitting stories about some of Gracedale’s residents who give me permission to write about them. Turns out they aren’t invisible at all. It is only the self-involvement and isolation of the rest of us which has kept us all apart.
In the weeks ahead I will be submitting these articles to this site. There is no better place, just as there are no better advocates for Gracedale’s patients than the COAF and Gracedale’s staff. I hope readers will stay tuned.
--Donald Dal Maso